Professor Profile: Dr. Bashir Sayar

Misha Khan

Photo courtesy of Dr. Sayer

At first sight engineering professor Bashir Ahmad Sayar, Ph.D., seems like an ordinary college professor, but there is much more to the calm and collected Dr. Sayar than his educational degrees. His extensive teaching career, his never-ending love for the field of engineering, and his travels all over the globe make him a professor worth talking to.

Born and raised in Afghanistan, Dr. Sayar received his bachelor’s degree from Kabul University and his master’s and doctorate degrees in mechanical engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

He has always been interested in the filed of engineering and in 1975 was employed by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a senior officer. He was stationed in Uganda, Africa for two and a half  years, participating in the establishment of a college of engineering in Makerere University.

Dr. Sayar said that teaching was something that came naturally to him.

“Well, it was part of my life when I got my degrees and everything. I was buried in it,” he said. “I am interested. I have always been interested, but I have always taken more bite than I can chew.”

His extensive travels and research serve as proof that he may indeed take up more work than he can handle. Dr. Sayar’s travel journal includes journeys to Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Tunizia, Kenya, Egypt, Canada, France, Germany and Austria, among others. Sayar spoke about some of his favorite places.

“U.S. is unbeatable,” he said. “I love Paris, and I love Cairo, Egypt. I was there very shortly, but I feel U.S. has a lot to see, too. Professionally, I have been almost everywhere engaged in research.”

Dr. Sayar even said how he finds it interesting that he always tells people he has worked at eight different universities when in reality he has worked at six.

“When I count, it comes to six,” Dr. Sayar said. “Why I say eight I don’t know. Maybe it’s automatically bluffing or something but I never could make it to eight.”

Dr. Sayar has been a professor at Jacksonville University for 26 years now. Before becoming part of Dolphin faculty, he taught engineering at Kabul University, Makerere University, Stevens Institute of Technology and South Dakota State University.

He has seen JU change and develop over the years and even said how he was not quite happy with the decision to turn it into a liberal arts school. However, he later changed his mind and is now quite satisfied with the university’s decision. All three of his children received their bachelor’s degrees from JU.

Dr. Sayar is not a professor who enforces his classes and engineering upon students. According to him, if a student does not get the general satisfaction and grades from the introductory courses, he suggests looking into something else.

“With engineering you need a lot of math, three levels of calculus,” he said. “Then you have the chemistry and physics part of it all so if you can’t do it in the beginning, then I tell the students to reconsider.”

He said with pride how several of his students have attended prestigious univiersities affiliated with the JU engineering program such as Colombia University, Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Florida, Mercer University and Washington University among others.

Dr. Sayar is proud of what he does for a living and is always happy to see a student succeed.

“[I do need to] get some rest and take it easy before you see an ambulance out here for me,” said Sayar.

With more than 40 years of teaching, research and administrative experience, he has done enough service to help the engineering department, of which he is the director, prosper into what it is today. After retiring he would like to continue his research and perhaps even put all his ideas out in the market. Most importantly, he wishes to spend time with his family and friends.

His family includes his Afghan wife, who received her college degree at the age of 42. All three of his children are college graduates, and he has two grandchildren who “fill him with all the love and affections and provide a new meaning and direction” for his life.

In 2002, Dr. Sayar was singled out from a worldwide pool of scholars by UNESCO and hired as a consultant to assess the status of higher education in Afghanistan and recommend actions for the reconstruction of the country’s system of higher education. In 2005, he was elected as “Professor of Year” in northeast Florida and was awarded a plaque by the Florida Engineering Society (FES) in the award banquet of the Engineer’s Week.

Dr. Bashir Sayar is just as dedicated to his craft as he was when he first joined Kabul University in 1959. His long career has provided him with the wisdom of a JU professor, without whom the engineering department would not have grown. As he looks back on what all he has accomplished, he is satisfied and grateful for it all.

As he wrote on his personal website, “What the future holds, is to be seen and what the past brought about has been an adventurous lifestyle unparallel to what an average person can experience.”